Sunday, March 29, 2009

baltimore bound


there are no direct flights from seattle to baltimore. so choosing which connecting city to be delayed through is an important decision. do you want to be delayed by thunderstorms in dallas? by a rogue blizzard in denver? by either (or both) in chicago?

any way you go, the day before is a bad time to discover that one of your chosen flights has been cancelled.


get on expedia. call the airline. call the airline whose flights are being operated by the first airline. get redirected back to the first airline. get re-redirected to the second airline. think, "this is fun" in an un-fun kind of way. hear that you can fly to washington, dc, and drive to baltimore. hear that you can fly into baltimore -- very, very late -- and pay a lot more for the privilege.

tell them that these options, while very interesting, are completely unacceptable.

ask for a supervisor. within 30 seconds, get a flight connecting through chicago, arriving baltimore within 10 minutes of your original itinerary. wonder, "wtf?"


in order to get from seattle to baltimore in time for a preconference meeting, it's necessary to catch a 6 am flight. to catch a 6 am flight, it's necessary to get out of bed and be semi-coherent at 330 am. hilarity ensues.

upon 445 am arrival at the airport, it's disconcerting to see a huge line at the ticket counter, and a longer line at security. especially since the airline's online check-in feature was down for 24 hours prior. so you wait impatiently in line to finally be told that it's too late to check your bag. wait some more for a supervisor to intervene, get bag checked, and get escort to the front of security line.

note to self: in the future, deal only with supervisors.


it's the same whenever i fly.

as the plane rushes down the runway, i summon images of my children. i figure if things go sideways, i'd prefer my last thoughts be of them rather than, say, the mailer copy that the boss made a hash of. or the risk of deep vein thrombosis on cross-country flights.


the instruction is to "return your seatbacks and tray tables to their full and upright position." even the so-called safety video says it. "full and upright position."

i'm no aviation expert, but i'm pretty sure they mean "fully upright."

why II

on a very full flight, i'm in the center seat next to someone who insists on bogarting the armrest. this same person has a thick, phlegmy cough and seems eager to share the mucus with the entire plane.

why III

the guy across the aisle is picking his nose. right in front of god and everyone. his finger is in the full and upright position. he flicked whatever he found into the aisle. i kid you not.

family hour

apparently united airlines has an arrangement with CBS to play the network's sitcoms for in-flight "entertainment." i can't hear the dialogue, which is probably for the best. merely watching the cast's overwrought gesturing is seriously annoying. hearing them speak would likely send me to the nearest exit.

oh, look...two of the characters are passionately dry-humping on the couch. girl's got her legs wrapped right around that boy's back. huh. CBS programming has changed since i last tuned in.


for the record, yes i heard correctly. there it is again..."full and upright position."


it's raining and cold in baltimore. if you squint, you could convince yourself you never left seattle, rendering moot all the travel-related monkey business. or monkey-related travel business.

as i left the terminal, someone wanted me to sign up for an air tran credit card so i could earn free travel. "no thanks," i said. "i don't like to fly."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

wait for it...

i won't hesitate no more, no more
it cannot wait i'm sure
there's no need to complicate
our time is short
this is our fate
i'm yours...

-- jason mraz

the calendar says it's spring, but around here it's an ersatz, hallmark kind of spring.

a contrivance not really indicative of anything real or meaningful.

spring, so far, looks a lot like winter. which looked a lot like fall. we skipped last summer altogether, which raises the question: what happened to seasons around here?

this grievance is weather-related only in part: sure, we would like to throw on a t-shirt and shorts and go outside without turning blue. but moreover, we'd like to have the time to enjoy the three warm, sunny days we're alloted each year, rather than watching them, wistfully, through an office window.

[note to the irony gods: we're not, repeat NOT complaining about having jobs that require us to spend time indoors, at a desk, in front of a computer. nothing to see here. move along.]

why is there never any time? good lord, how we rush around. one thing to the next to the next, nearly all of them 'mandatories' for keeping our lives moving forward. groceries, laundry, cleaning. drop off at school, pick up from school, dinner, bedtime. repeat.

sometimes life gets in the way of actually living, if you follow the train of thought. such as it is.

here's the thing: mrs. spaceneedl isn't feeling well. she's intermittently experiencing a litany of seemingly unrelated symptoms, concerning enough that she consulted a doctor last week. after a managed-care exam and some consideration, the doctor hypothesized a variety of ailments, none of which suited us.

the missus is too healthy to be unwell. she has no lifestyle-related risk factors that would make it likely or fair that she have asthma and chest pains and weight loss and difficulty sleeping and night sweats. with some indignation, she told the doctor as much.

the doctor, in reply, patiently recapped the symptoms, to which the missus said, "well, when you put it that way, it doesn't sound so good, does it?" she's funny that way, the missus.

last night at dinner, we talked about things that we can control, and things that we can't. we agreed, not for the first time, that in this life we have control over precisely nothing. and that anything can happen to anyone at any time.

over the course of two hours we vented and fretted and vetted our current list of irrational anxieties. we acknowleged that years of planning and toil might not result in the long-envisioned house with a water view. and that if things go sideways, we might not even keep the house we have. and that if things go really sideways, one or both of us might not be around to see how such things turn out.

the airing of mortal dread was sobering, despite the pinot noir. mrs. spaceneedl reiterated her pique that she could do so much to stay healthy and still not feel healthy, while others do so little and still live beyond all expectations. then we sat quietly for awhile.

hereabouts, spring is a riot of ambiguity. its arrival in a way that would be most useful -- warm weather -- trails the actual equinox by weeks. if it ever shows up at all. meanwhile trees blossom, leaves unfurl, and flowers flower. the expected and traditional harbingers of rebirth.

we're waiting for it all, as usual.

this year more impatiently than ever.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

closing the gaps

they're coming out of the woodwork.

ever since i joined facebook a few weeks ago, people i haven't seen or spoken to in ages are finding their way back into close orbit. they've popped up online, on the phone, and now, in the flesh in my living room.

i like it.

it's like some gravitational nexus of people and places past has achieved critical mass in the here and now. or like someone shook up a big ol' snow globe filled with time, and the past is falling all around me.

even my dreams are filling up with folks who have been important to me at some time or another. it's a crazy, subconscious carousel at night, and a welcome-back wagon during the day.

but wait. there's more.

this trip through the way-back machine must've churned up some powerful, positive karma. there's no other way to explain the presence of dave, and his 18-month old son, in our very house.

our friendship spanned three states, four time zones, two companies, and a decade-long interruption. i tried to track him down over the years, and he tried to do the same -- to no avail. every now and then i'd google him, just to see if anything new turned up. it never did.

but last week, amidst a days-long firestorm storm at work...i went browsing through a magazine for ideas. or inspiration. or refuge. the publication was filled with riotous photography and uproarious copy and brilliant design. and amidst all that was a quietly elegant, beautifully simple bottle of whisky.

usually i see something like that, appreciate it for half a moment, then move on. this time, for no reason at all, i scanned over to see who created this little jewel of a design...and there he was. "designer/creative director: dave."

i jolted upright in my chair. i checked the print date of the magazine, sure it must be well out of date, and dave would've long since moved on. november, 2008.

i googled the design firm...he wasn't in the list of bios. must be gone by now. i called the number, sure i'd hear, "dave's no longer with the company." have i mentioned that the advertising and design business is notorious for turnover? yeah...

"hi, is dave in?"
"he's not at his desk, would you like his voicemail?"
"yes, i'd like that very much."
"hi, this is dave. leave a message."

same voice. same dave. i left a giddy message. minutes later, he called me back. it was as if no time had passed. he'd been living in seattle for years.

two days later, we were drinking beer while our children played around us. turns out we even know some of the same people here. all we could do was shake our heads and smile, and say "unbelievable".

another friend, the one who goaded me to get on facebook, is now taunting me. "you like facebook, don't you. ha ha, you like facebook. you should marry facebook."

he's very funny. isn't he funny? i don't love facebook, mister funny man. okay?

but i do love my friends. and now, after much moving around and much time gone by...i have some of them back again.

what's not to love?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

patchy fog mixed with low clouds

in which the author attempts to mitigate the effects of last night's nyquil with caffeine, emergen*C and raisin bran...

[elusive ideas weaving in and out of the fog. every word is another fork in the road.]

it's come to my attention that today is international women's day. i'm down with that. i love women. i have a wife and a daughter and a mother, after all. not to mention several friends of the female persuasion.

coincidently (or maybe not), on our coffee table is a book titled 'why women should rule the world' by dee dee myers. well, why not? surely women would do no worse at the job than men -- probably they'd do better. for example, with the exception of hillary clinton, women generally aren't in a hurry to instigate wars and other unpleasantries. the world could use fewer unpleasantries right now.

"women tend to be better communicators, better listeners, better at forming consensus," myers says. hard to dispute that.

at 31, myers became the first woman to serve as white house press secretary. do you think her experience in the clinton administration had any influence on her perception of leadership? particularly male leadership? just sayin' is all.

women have their foibles and idiosyncracies, to be sure. like any representative of the species, they are capable of great unintentional hilarity. that said, the women i'm fortunate enough to think of as friends have a high capacity for thoughtful nuance, intellectual curiosity, and grace under pressure.

generally they're just less knuckleheaded than the guys.

full disclosure: i'm a guy. i know guys. i know several really good guys, as a matter of fact. i also know some not-so-good ones. real mouth-breathers. they'd become confused and agitated at the notion of women running things.

too many confused and agitated men are what got us into the mess we're in.

give credit to one smart man who defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

by that logic, having more women at the helm might prevent some future insanity and inanity.

i'm pretty sure these things are true.

then again, maybe it's the nyquil talking.

* * * * *

photo courtesy of zach manchester.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

repeat after me..."i love my job"

who amongst us hasn't complained about our job?

the overbearing boss, the whingeing colleagues, the unreasonable know, everybody at every job, ever.

those days are over.

those of us still fortunate enough to have a job should be standing over it protectively, tending to it like it's the last, flickering warmth of an arctic winter campfire. if it goes out, there's a fair chance they find us late next summer, frozen in place, cell phone in hand, forever dialing a search consultant who never picks up.

have you paid attention to the unemployment numbers for the last several months? i don't want to alarm you, but they're alarming. in california ("the world's 6th, no 7th, no 8th-largest economy!"), the rate hit 10.1% in january.

first, let's have a moment of sincere compassion for the millions of americans standing in line at the unemployment office. thank you. second, let's acknowledge that all of them right now would shove you down the nearest staircase to have the job you're complaining about.

it's not that they're not nice people; they'd feel bad for you as you lay stunned at the bottom of the stairs. but it's the compassion of the lion for the hyena slinking away from the zebra carcass. "sorry, please understand that i'd prefer to share, but if you get close enough i'll kill and eat you, too."

the upside is, grownups are back in charge, and they're actually taking steps to correct a dismal, deteriorating economic situation. the downside is, there's no telling if those steps will work, or how long it'll be before they do. there's nothing like ambiguity under duress to make people feel good about spending money.

"what do you think, dear, should we buy a bigger house, or, say, food for the children?"

"i don't know, hon. i've had my eye on a nice american-made car for awhile now. but maybe we should get some healthcare coverage instead."

and retirement? that's a quaint, pre-meltdown mindset. have you looked at your 401(k) recently? forget about retirement.

"...there is no meaning to retirement anymore. We are shifting from lifetime pensions to lifetime work. It's the end of retirement." -- some economics professor

does the lion retire? sure, when it wants to stop eating. and what happens to the shark when it stops swimming? it sinks to the bottom. countless millions of responsible, productive people who planned and saved for decades are now facing the same relationship with their retirement. go ahead, their bankers say. we'll be happy to take that house back, thanks. oh, and we're closing all your credit lines, too. have a nice day.

the takeaway here seems to be that banks are cold, the arctic winter is cold, and in hard times, the fittest survive. also that you don't hear the shark complain about snarfing down really fresh ahi tuna.

and this: no matter how unloveable the job might be, if you have one, love it. or fake it, convincingly. if you don't, there's a whole lot of people out there who will.